Book Reviews


The conclusion reflects the focus of the rest of the review, and leaves the reader with a clearly articulated, well-justified final assessment. A restatement of the topic sentence is better than a cursory inspection of less important matters like book format and mechanical make-up. Main emphasis should remain primarily on the qualities and materials of the book being reviewed.

At the end of Wendy Rawlings' review of John D'Agata's Halls of Fame, Rawlings summarizes previously stated ideas: "When D'Agata doesn't find the balance, the lyricism borrowed from poetry seems not quite, yet, to fit. I don't wish for D'Agata to join the legions of the smug and ironic, but at certain moments, I begin to wish for authorial presence that will assert itself less forcefully in terms of the arrangement of words on the page, which are often blasted into squadrons separated by asterisks, white space, or unhelpful section headings, and more forcefully on the level of the sentence, as D'Agata does in 'Notes toward the making of a whole human being . . . ,' a five-page essay composed of a single, breathtakingly constructed sentence."

The conclusion statement cements the reviewer's recommendation, or lack thereof, of the book. Clearly, this is David Milofsky's aim in the conclusion of his review of Reynold Price's Noble Norfleet: "Even with a failure, it is interesting to read as accomplished a writer as Price, but his new novel cannot be recommended on any other grounds."

The final sentence of a review should be both memorable and thought-provoking to the reader. As at the end of John Calderazzo's review of Ken Lamberton's Wilderness and Razor Wire, this final thought might be put in the form of a question: "[R]eading about Lamberton's flawed but exhilarating life makes me wonder about temptation and impetuousness. In light of losing everything, how many of us are still tempted to pursue, just once, some nearby object of desire? And will this constant risk be the prison of all of our days, our lives a landscape of wilderness and razor wire?"

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